BIRMINGHAM – Alabama star Brandon Miller was accompanied by an armed security guard to the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday because of threats directed in his direction, Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said.
“If they saw any of what I’ve seen on his way, I think they would understand why that’s the case,” Oats said of the extra protection the school arranged for Miller. “I don’t want to get into all that. The whole situation, as you know, is just a heartbreaking situation in every way.”
Miller’s name came up last month in court testimony involving the capital murder case of former Alabama player Darius Miles and another man, who are accused of fatally shooting 23-year-old Jamea Harris on January 15.
A police officer testified that Miles texted Miller asking him to bring Miles’ gun in the early hours of the morning of the shooting. Fellow freshman starter Jaden Bradley was also on the scene. Neither Miller nor Bradley have been charged with any crime and the university has described Miller as a cooperating witness, not a suspect.
The Crimson Tide (29-5) is the No. 1 seed in the tournament for the first time in school history. They play their South Region opener on Thursday, taking on No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in Birmingham, less than an hour’s drive from Alabama’s campus in Tuscaloosa.
The guard, who was wearing a gun, badge and Alabama polo shirt, escorted Miller to the interview area and later watched him engage in light practice.
The freshman, who was Southeastern Conference Player and Newcomer of the Yearhe declined to go into detail about the added security, implying it was nothing unusual.
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“I always travel safely to every game,” Miller said. “That’s all I’m going to say about that.”
But Oats admitted that it wasn’t business as usual.
“Some of the messages from people may be behind fake email addresses, but who knows if they are real or not,” Oats said. “But if you had seen what I have seen, you would understand what is happening right now.”
Oats added that he looks at all his players as his own children: “I put myself in the shoes of their parents and our administration has seen the things that I have seen. It’s appropriate. But it’s nothing a college kid should go through.”
After his name came out in the case, Miller received a harsh reception during a win at South Carolinawhere the crowd chanted “lock him up” and “guilty”.
Miller has repeatedly refused to discuss the details of the case, saying only last week that he was relying on the camaraderie of his teammates to deal with issues off the court.
“I just lean on my teammates,” he said. “They are like a family to me away from home.”